Pressure on NNPC Pipeline Caused Lagos Explosion, Says NEMA

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· Sanwo-Olu sets up N2bn relief fund for victims
· Toddler rescued, three more corpses recovered

Chiemelie Ezeobi and Segun James

The explosion that rocked Abule Ado and its environs in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos on Sunday, killing 18 people and injuring scores of others was caused by pressure on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline in the area, the acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, has said.

The blast also destroyed over 100 buildings.

To cushion the loss of the victims, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who visited the scene of the incident yesterday, announced a N2 billion relief fund with the state government providing the seed capital of N250 million to provide instant relief for the victims.

He also said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the explosion.

The committee, to be chaired by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Omotayo Bamgbose-Martins, has 14 days to submit its findings.

However, Farinloye said investigations by security and emergency agencies revealed that contrary to earlier speculation, the explosion was caused by pressure exerted on the NNPC pipeline by a heavy-duty tipper.

According to the investigation, the tipper, which was fully laden with granite, was parked on the pipeline overnight, thus forcing the content in the pipeline to blow up.

Speaking to THISDAY, Farinloye said the pressure exerted on the pipeline could be likened to compressing a coke bottle.

He said: “When the pressure became too much, the pipeline forced itself out to escape and that was why the sky was filled with grey smoke that led to explosion before the fire.”

Giving an update on the state of rescue operations, Farinloye said aside from the three-year-old toddler that was rescued, no other survivor was found yesterday.

He, however, stated that three more bodies were recovered as emergency workers carried out an excavation of some of the collapsed buildings.

Measures have also been put in place to arrest the driver of the tipper, who is now on the run.

THISDAY gathered that although it was initially thought that the driver died in the explosion, information by the landlord association in the area said he escaped.

Farinloye, after a stakeholders’ meeting chaired by Hamzat, said five relief lines had been released for the affected residents.

Sanwo-Olu said the N250 million would be set aside for the immediate needs of the victims.

He said: “To give immediate relief and support to the victims of the disaster, I have set up a N2 billion relief fund to be chaired by Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.

He said: “The process of rebuilding this place is beyond what the government, either at the national level or state, can also undertake on its own. Given the level of destruction, I am immediately setting up what I have called an Abule Ado/Ado Soba Emergency Relief Fund. It is a N2 billion relief fund and the state government will immediately be putting N250 million in that fund. Three banks have opened accounts for the fund.”

The governor also released three bank account numbers for individuals and organisations to contribute to the fund.

“Polaris Bank with the account number 4030017510 and name Abule Ado Emergency Relief Fund. Also, Zenith Bank, with the same account name gave account number 1017184516, while Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank account number is 0568615688.

“Well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations that wish to support us on this journey have any of these three banks to donate.”

Meanwhile, a toddler simply identified as Favour was rescued from the rubble of one of the collapsed buildings at the Abule Ado explosion.

The three-year-old girl was rescued by operatives of Red Cross Nigeria.

According to the Chairman of Red Cross Nigeria, Mr. Adebowale Kolawole, she was recovered under the debris of a building.

He said: “We found out that her mother and sibling were admitted in the hospital. The mother who had head injury was semiconscious. This morning when she asked for her daughter, the doctors told her that she is safe and with the Red Cross.

“Actually that was what we wanted so that the mother would be at rest psychologically; so that it will not add to the pains that the mother is actually going through in other to save her life.

“As soon as possible, we are taking her to go see her mother at the naval hospital. The little girl’s name is Favour and God has favoured her.”

Aside the rescued toddler, scores of parents are still hunting for their missing children in hospitals in the area and beyond.

Although no figure was given on the total number of schoolgirls from Bethlehem Girls College that are missing, the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, told THISDAY that most of those that were brought to the navy hospital have been discharged.

However, the identities of the two of the corpses that were recovered were revealed as Mr. Emmanuel Uyammadu, and his wife, Chisom, who was pregnant.

The husband, a Banking and Finance graduate of Anambra State University was burnt with his wife, a first-class graduate of Zenith University College (ZUC), Accra, Ghana.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, also visited the scene of the incident yesterday.

According to the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, the CP went there to assess the security situation on the ground.

He said: “He went to see the security situation on the ground and the crowd control management that was put in place, to know if we should increase manpower.

“It was because of security on the ground that deterred scavengers and hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation. Thus the police did not make any arrest because there was no security breach.”

On potential plans to prosecute those that caused the explosion, he said: “We have commenced investigation but note that it’s not only the police that are involved. A committee has been set up.

“So the investigation will take a holistic approach. It will be a joint investigation involving the NNPC because their pipeline was involved; the NSCDC and other agencies will work together.”